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f+h Intralogistics 2/2015

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f+h Intralogistics 2/2015


MATERIAL FLOW I INTERVIEW The fully potential of Lean Production is not even close to being fully tapped f+h Intralogistics interviews Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Armbruster, market expert in Lean Production and Development Team Leader at item Industrietechnik GmbH in Solingen, Germany Lean Production made headlines in the 1970s with the principle of continuous improvements and focus on maximum quality. Is the topic still relevant 40 years later? Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Armbruster explains in an interview where hidden potential lies and what factors are often underestimated in practice. Lean Production is a concept from the 1970s. Why should a company be concerned with it in the 21st century? Because the principles have been proven correct. If you increase efficiency by cutting waste, you reduce your costs and improve processes. Continuous improvements provide better practical results than hoping and waiting for big jumps. How much leaner can production still become? Hasn’t all the potential already been tapped? Lean Production is not a final state, it’s an attitude that leads through many steps in the direction of an ideal state. The full potential of Lean Production is not even close to fully tapped: There are still major companies even today that have not really dealt with Lean Production at all. So much is still possible in this area. The further a company moves towards implementing these ideas, the smaller the steps would have to be. But even Toyota, the inventor of the Lean idea, would never claim it had already eliminated all instances of waste. When you become satisfied with what has already been achieved, you stop becoming better. No one in product development ever says: “That’s it, we can’t build a better car.” Avoiding waste is a principle of Lean Production. Where does most waste occur in companies? One way of looking at this is the seven mudas or seven classic forms of waste. Overproduction is considered the worst form of waste because it incorporates most other forms of waste as well. Modern research has recognized two new mudas: waste of talent and lack of ergonomics. Why is a lack of ergonomics a form of waste? People differ much in terms of their body size, strength and age. When people have to adapt to their workstation, they are unable to achieve their full potential. By contrast, ergonomic workstations can be adapted to people. That makes it possible to boost productivity and reduce time lost to illness. If each employee´s productive capability is actually used instead of being wasted, the company benefits. And because employees are healthier, they also benefit and are much more motivated. That’s a true win-win solution. Don’t methods like that contradict the Lean principle, as you are building additional operating resources? Quite the opposite: Lean doesn’t mean leaving everything out. 30 f+h Intralogistics 2/2015

INTERVIEW I MATERIAL FLOW It means avoiding what will not be used. But on the other hand, you have to add whatever will make work more productive. No one would do without a metal press to save electricity. Lean Production building kit systems allow employees to produce the tools they need, on site and with little effort, to make them more productive. What factor of Lean Production is underestimated most often? The human factor. Human capabilities and motivation are the basis of all improvement. If you aren’t capable of encouraging employees and motivating them to bring about improvements, implementation of Lean Production has already failed. It is not possible to compensate for that with Pull, Kanban or Karakuri. How errors are dealt with is often a good indicator of whether Lean principles have been internalized in personnel management. Toyota looks at errors as jewels: Only by learning from them will you be able to improve processes and products. Instead of searching for the guilty party, they search for a better solution. What role do building kit systems play in embodying Lean Principles? Due to long planning cycles, it’s often not possible to suppress errors or problems in a process quickly enough. A Lean Production building kit system allows employees to create remedies to solve problems directly in production, without having to ask central production planning. With Kaizen, the savings effect or gain in productivity takes effect immediately. And it pays off. And where do most problems of this type occur in practical terms? Employees need some freedom in planning their work to be able to implement the necessary improvements. Only a few of them build tools for their employer in their free time. Employees must also be trained appropriately to recognize the potential of the Lean Production building kit system for their tasks. If the training is not provided, employees will lack motivation and know-how, and many improvements will not even be attempted. The requirements are very clear in terms of operating resources: They have to be as self-explanatory as possible, fast and easy to change, and they have to work reliably. Operating resources without long-term durability are not really any help at all. But isn’t that just how things are? You can’t ask employees to construct operating resources that will last forever. The problem is not with the employees. You should be able to depend on a tool like the Lean Production building kit system being stable and providing connections between the parts that are able to withstand long-term loads. If a trolley has to be tightened continuously due to the creep behavior of the fasteners, that’s also waste. Second generation Lean Production building kit system have recognized these weaknesses and offer fasteners that can withstand loads for extended periods even without retightening. item offers its own Lean Production Building Kit System. Which parts or which function would you say is most often underestimated? It’s the roller conveyors. You should always start by looking very carefully at containers and their qualities. Many people wouldn’t believe how important the right roller is for the material being transported. Especially if you want to use a Karakuri application for low cost automation. Do you have an insider’s tip for us? My insider’s tip is the preassembled fastener. You can take it out of the package and fasten it in just a few seconds. The part used most often by employees no longer consists of many individual components. What sounds like a mere trifle actually saves an incredible amount of time and aggravation. It’s only available from item in this form and it’s a great example of Kaizen in an everyday situation. The preassembled fastener provides a better result in less time. That’s how Lean Production should be. Thank you for talking to us. Stefan Armbruster was interviewed by Manfred Weber, editor of f+h Intralogistics. Photo: item About item item is the pioneer in building kit systems for industrial applications and a global market leader. It has been designing and marketing construction solutions for machinery, fixtures and plants since 1976. Today, the item product portfolio comprises more than 3,500 high-quality components designed for use in machine bases, work benches, automation solutions and lean production applications. Click to read previous issues. Inspiration is just one click away. News about the following markets: f+h Intralogistics 2/2015 31


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